The Non-Professional Pitfall: The Costly Mistake of Putting Your Estate Plans in the Hands of the Wrong Person

Imagine this: you’ve visited The TGQ Law Blog and you’ve read all about estate plans, wills, and trusts. You then went to a workshop held by Attorney Terrence Quinn and you’ve listened to him expertly explain the importance of estate planning, and you began to think about how difficult it would be for your loved ones if you passed away without an estate plan. You become really serious about it- so much so, that you choose an online legal software to prepare your will, powers of attorney, etc. Or better yet, you know someone whose distant cousin may have mentioned that they might know how to draw up a will.

I mean, how difficult can it be?

You’re simply writing down your wishes for the disbursement of your lifelong earnings and acquired assets and appointing agents to make financial and medical decisions for you. That is, until the unthinkable occurs for you and your family members, and everything is a mess. Your will doesn’t hold up in probate court because of an error, there’s outdated information, your beneficiary passed away and no one else is listed! Your family is distraught- who will they turn to, to help them sort all of this out? Is it too late to hire an expert estate planning attorney?

Online Wills

Various online publications will advise you that legal software is just as good as an estate planning attorney. These software programs will promise you a quick, cheap, and easy will-planning process. However, estate plans are not one-size-fits-all. Most of us are typically meticulous about every detail in our lives. Whether it’s choosing the perfect job, finding a good school for our children, or trusting the right caregivers with our parents, we’re careful. But when it comes to estate plans and planning for what happens posthumously, or in the event of the decline of our health, the attention to detail doesn’t seem to withstand. A cheap online estate plan can cost you- and your loved ones- more in the long run, even before you pass away. Click To Tweet When thinking about your loved ones, you’ll want the best option that will ensure them the best care – not the cheapest.

Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney

When hiring an estate planning attorney, the last thing you’ll want to do is hire a jack-of-all-trades, or worst yet, a jack-of-no-trades. After all, a will is no laughing matter- there are important life events and circumstances that weigh into your decisions, such as family members with disabilities, minor children, business assets, etc. For every unique life circumstance, there is a possible unique problem that can arise. At The TGQ Law Firm, our attorneys are trained to and can guide you in the right direction. They have the training and experience to be able to foresee possible conflicts that may occur before they happen.

Don’t leave your plan in the wrong hands. Contact The TGQ Law Firm today to help you plan your family’s next steps.

what is estate plan

What Is An Estate Plan?

What is in an Estate Plan? Inquiring minds want to know.

To recap, an estate plan makes sure that your wishes about your life and your stuff are met, during life and death. But what exactly is an estate plan?

You may have heard of a will or a trust in television shows and movies, especially after a character dies and the entire family fights over what they are getting from the estate. You may have also heard of a will in light of recent celebrities like Aretha Franklin or Prince who both passed without having a will or trust in place. These documents are the foundations of an estate plan, but there is more to an estate plan than just a will or trust.

What an Estate Plan Includes

Each estate plan includes a will, a General Durable Power of Attorney (GDPA), a Healthcare Power of Attorney, HIPAA release, and Consent of Digital Assets, among other essential documents that ensure not only your property and assets are taken care of, but you and your family are taken care of as well. Each document is created between the client and their attorney to meet the specific needs and wishes of the client.

Will

The Will is probably the most recognizable document of those discussed above as it identifies your intentions after your death. A Will lists your Personal Representative (executor)- the person in charge of managing your estate in Probate Court. This includes what happens to the money and assets left in your estate.

But what a trust does not do is keep your assets and family out of probate court when you die. Instead a Will informs the probate court of your intentions, as a will is only for probate court having no value outside of an open probate case. If you want to protect your family and assets from the costliness and publicity of probate court you need more than a will. That’s where a trust matters.

Trust

A trust is often a better choice for people wanting their family and assets to be managed without local court involvement. Trusts are not solely for married or wealthy individuals. At its core, a trust is designed for anyone wanting their family and assets managed and administered outside of the court process. Since nearly everyone prefers to avoid probate court, a trust should always be considered and evaluated as a potential option for your plan.

General Durable Power of Attorney

What happens if you cannot make decisions for yourself when you are alive? If you have a General Durable Power of Attorney (GDPA), Healthcare Power of Attorney, and HIPAA release, everything will happen according to your wishes. These documents give the person(s), also known as your agent(s) the ability to handle your financial affairs if you happen to be incapacitated (GDPA), and to gather your health information and make your health decisions if you can’t make them yourself (Healthcare Powers of Attorney and HIPAA release). In these documents you are able to decide what kind of power you want your agents to have while acting on your behalf.

You may be thinking, “I already have all these documents!” That’s great! You are ahead of most already. Please keep in mind, however, that it is critical to review your trust yearly so you can make sure it still complies with the estate laws of your state along with your personal wishes, and that it is adjusted for any life changes you may have.

If you need a will or trust, it is important that you have an attorney that specializes in this type of work to assist you in creating your documents. Some people point to online resources for this kind of document creation, however, there are many pitfalls in using online sources. These are discussed in the articles here and here. Be sure to hire an attorney that specializes in estate planning, wills, and trusts, like the attorneys at The TGQ Law Firm so you can be sure that you are getting exactly what you need.

 

what is a will

What Is A Will?

There are many reasons why people may not have an estate plan and we’ve heard most of them. The reasons could be that you’ve just procrastinated, maybe you don’t understand what a will or trust really is, or maybe you don’t like to think about death. Many don’t want to “jinx it” or having this conversation just gives you an eerie feeling. You may even be thinking, “I have a life insurance policy with a beneficiary listed. My wife is a joint account holder on my bank accounts. The children will automatically receive everything if I pass on anyway! Everything will be ok.”

While some of these misconceptions may become reality in a perfect world, if any part of ends up imperfect, problems will arise. In the event of your death, everything will not be ok.

Let’s add a bit more context:

I would like to ask you a few questions. If you’re willing, please answer them to the best of your ability with a “yes” or “no”:

  • Are there any non-immediate family members that you would like to benefit from your assets after you’re gone?
  • Do you have any family members that you wouldn’t want to benefit from your estate?
  • Are you a single parent with minor children?
  • Do you have specific instructions or wishes for who will receive your various assets when you pass?
  • Would you like to prevent the court from determining who will be granted rights and liberties over your estate?
  • Would you like to continue giving to your selected charities even after you pass away?
  • Would you like to prevent your estate from falling into the wrong hands (for example, an estranged ex-partner, the other parent of your minor child, or a ne’er-do-well family member)?
  • Would you like to be protected in the event that you suffer a debilitating disability?
  • Do you care about posthumous details, such as your funeral arrangements?
  • Do you own a business?
  • Do you own investment properties?
  • Is it likely that family disputes may arise over your assets after you’re gone?
  • Would you like to make sure the public does not have access to your asset, debt, and family information after you’re gone?
  • Do you have a child or an intended beneficiary that has a disability that you want to benefit from your estate without jeopardizing governmental support?
  • Do you have assets or property outside of your state of residence?

If you’ve answered “yes” to just one of these questions, then you need a plan. If you’ve answered “yes” to more than one of these questions, then you really need a plan.

A properly drafted plan typically determines who will carry out your wishes, who will inherit your assets, how your assets will be received, and who will care for your minor or disabled children. Click To Tweet Many people believe that estate plans are only necessary for the wealthy, but as you can see from the above exercise, nearly everyone needs a plan. An estate plan provides for a smooth transition when you pass. It can prevent your estate from going through a lengthy, costly and public probate process once you are gone or incapacitated. Just imagine: no turmoil, no family feuds, and no clamoring over your assets. You can truly rest in peace!

In the age of access, beware of online legal websites that promise you a will with a simple click of a button. These “services” will likely not only leave out important details pertaining to your estate but in the event of any life changes (because they will occur), they won’t be as agile in amending your will. An online legal service won’t know who you are, what your concerns are, and when to reach back out to you to update your records in the case of estate laws changing or your personal situation changing- it all falls on you. At The TGQ Law Firm, we’re with you every step of the way, through every life change, every question, and every concern.

Life is unpredictable but one thing you can always count on, without a doubt, is that The TGQ Law Firm attorneys and staff will be by your side through it all. Contact us today to discuss your wishes for the future.